|The late Marc Soulier|
As readers will remember, this was a reference for a preliminary ruling from the French Council of State, asking the CJEU to clarify the compatibility of the the 2012 French law on the digital exploitation of out-of-print 20th century books with the InfoSoc Directive.
As I discussed more at length here, the new Chapter IV in the French Code de la Propriété Intellectuelle (CPI) vested approved collecting societies with the right to authorise the reproduction and representation in digital form of out-of-print books published in France before 2001, while allowing the authors of those books (or their successors in title) to oppose or put an end to that practice subject to certain conditions.
In its 53-paragraph decision the CJEU substantially followed the Opinion [here] of Advocate General Wathelet, and stated that the system of the InfoSoc Directive is one of broad and preventative rights. Although national initiatives on out-of-commerce works are not against the directive per se, the Court clarified that nonetheless authors - not collecting societies that do not have any direct mandate from them - must consent to third-party uses of their works.
In this post I expressed the view that the CJEU decision in Soulier and Doke would likely have far-reaching consequences. A first direct effect is the ruling of the Council of State earlier this week, which has declared the decrees implementing the provisions in Chapter IV CPI [Articles 134-1 to 134-9] invalid due to misuse of powers (excès de pouvoir).
As noted by a learned and technological Katfriend, it is unclear (in the sense that the Council of State's decision does not say) whether the invalidity thus declared has retroactive effects (invalidity ex tunc) or just effects for the future (invalidity ex nunc).
If one wished to draw a parallel with the UK copyright world, a similar problem arose when Green J quashed the short-lived private copying exception ('personal copies for private use': s28B) [here]. In its ruling, the High Court of England and Wales declined in fact to make any determination as to whether or not the Regulations adopting s28B should be void ex tunc. This was on consideration that a declaration to this effect would raise "potentially complex and far reaching issues which it is appropriate to address in the circumstances of private law litigation between a specific rightholder and an alleged infringer. It will be for a defendant in future proceedings to explore and raise this issue, including whether the effect of the fact that they relied at the time upon Section 28B creates some species of estoppel, legitimate expectation or fair use defence in private law and whether, if such exists, this goes to the cause of action or the remedy or both." [para 19]
But what do readers, especially French ones, think?
[Originally published on The IPKat on 8 June 2017]